Could I be wrong? Thoughts on helmets…


Motorcyclists need to wear them, would be silly not to do so because your melon hitting the pavement at a high rate of speed makes a mess.

Riding your bike (at least farther than around the corner): you should wear a helmet. See above for melon vs. road comment.

Skiiers: Hmmmm, this is where I start acting like a Libertarian (more than usual at least). I see the reasons, mainly because idiot skiers and snowboarders run into other innocents on a regular basis. But I don’t like having to pay for one more expensive piece of equipment for me and my kids. Yes, my kids. I said it. They both have helmets but today I told one of them that she didn’t have to wear it as we would be on the easy runs and it was going to be 50 degrees by the end of the day.

First run, she takes a fall (because I didn’t get her on the correct run) and as I’m just helping her up, some woman skis up and says: “Hey, you’re too pretty not to be wearing a helmet” At which time I tell her that I’ve got it, she says: “Daaaadd, come on, she’s too pretty…” blah, blah blah. I refrained from saying much more at that point because I’m trying to help my kid, a 14 year old, not a little one.  Oh, and thanks for the “your too pretty… to be that dumb” comment, nice lady.  Because that’s what you’re saying and that’s a whole other effing problem I have with that comment.

So, I’m pissed and she’s upset but we spend the rest of the day having a good time skiing, without helmets. I wasn’t the only one on the hill without one and she wasn’t the only teen without one but that’s not a reason for picking one way or another.

However, upon further review, I wonder if I’m wrong. I started researching it a bit and, interestingly enough, the results are inconclusive as to the relative benefits of wearing a helmet. Most deaths occur when you hit something really hard, like a tree or another person and get a head injury.  But that’s where the research seems to focus, rather than on more common injuries on the slopes like concussions.  The example many point to is Liam Neeson’s wife, who fell on a beginner slope and hours later was rushed to the hospital and died. I would assume that she fell at a slower speed, which some research shows actually is common with skiing/snowboarding injuries (this was interesting to me). I can’t find that link right now but will try to post it again.

Is that enough to warrant a helmet?  Is the mere threat of injury to your head why you should wear a helmet?  Am I being stubborn and should just go with the flow and wear one, because at one point we all know that I might get hit in the head? Because we all used to not wear seat belts but now do be one way of looking at this?

I’m not sure.  What I’m sure of is that I have a feeling that the wearing of helmets was caused by several things:  More snowboarders and skiers doing increasingly more dangerous tricks/jumps, lines than we did when I was young (a good reason to wear one); an industry that saw a market and exploited it (don’t think this doesn’t happen) and the typical “bubble wrap” mentality that so many of us over the age of 40+ bitch about but increasingly seem to find as acceptable behavior.

I’ll finish with some stats from the research but understand, I don’t want my kids to be hurt but I also don’t want 1) someone in my face telling me I’m a bad parent (go find a smoker with a kid and bitch at them, I’m on board with that) or 2) the “crowd” (the market?) pushing others to “conform” without a solid foundation to support that decision.  Why does this feel like the post 9/11 rush to push back individual (and Constitutional) rights based on what the government chose to tell us?

Is it my lack of a desire to conform, reading “1984” in 1984 (thanks Mr. Hatch) or something else that makes me question this rush to have everyone wear a helmet while on the slopes?  Or am I “cranky old guy” already and I should just get with the program?

I still don’t know. But both kids are wearing one next time. I might not but then again I might, especially if I go off in the trees again like today.  Not so smart, really.

From the article here:

“…the fact remains that the risk of such an injury remains too small to insist that everyone on the slopes must wear a helmet. It should remain your personal choice at the end of the day. Nevertheless, parents should think long and hard before sending their kids out on the slopes without a lid on……”

“statistically a death can be expected for every 1.49 million visits to a ski area.” From 1991/2 to 1998/9 Shealy, Ettlinger and Johnson

“Head injuries account for at most 10-20% of all injuries from snow sports – although some studies have shown higher rates in children (up to 43% in one Canadian study though I have not seen that reported anywhere else). But even taking this 43% rate coupled with the highest injury rate gives a rate for head injury of 2.4 per 1000 skier days – really very low. A more average risk would be about 0.3-0.5 per 1000 skier days. Most of these injuries are minor (usually concussion) and as I have already mentioned the bad ones are usually the result of skiing or boarding out of control.”


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